Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

Buffet Of Danger

July 30, 2014

Saturday July 26th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Does life ever get even a little easier for any of us at any time? I’m beginning to think it never does, and that scares me. Well maybe not scares, but absolutely disappoints. I’d hate to think we plow through the treacherous jungle this planet can be, only to leave with no payoff. That stinks.

The human experience as I have observed it is a constant evolution of change, and each change brings with it a spanking new set of ominous obstacles to have to figure out a way to get over. It would certainly be nice to have at least a little time to enjoy the scenery, but the intense struggle always seems to require more than just casual attention – at least for me anyway. It never rests.

My problems have always been different than most everyone else’s in my immediate circle, but I always assumed I would receive a higher payoff. When I was a kid I knew other kids that came from various levels of dysfunction, but nobody was close to my situation and it was a distraction.

I really struggled through childhood when I should have been just enjoying being a kid. I never had that chance, but I assumed adulthood would be easier. Then I chose to get into THE craziest business around, filled with instability at every turn. Adulthood has been a buffet of danger also.

Again, I assumed I’d meet a great woman and build a good life anyway. Well, I met a bunch of women that may or may not have been great but I knew inside that I wasn’t ready to put together the life I always dreamed of. That’s why I got into radio, assuming it would bring along stability.

Boy, do I have to quit assuming. Nothing could have been more unstable, and life has been one crisis after another for as long as I can remember. I know everyone has problems, but not quite as unique or complex as mine. I don’t know anyone else that has had to testify in court against their best friend from childhood for robbing the same bank twice. Those kinds of events leave scars.

I wouldn’t wish anyone that mental torture, and I still have nightmares about it. Another rotten feeling is moving across the country for a job, then having that job taken away with zero backup. I know that has happened to others, but I’ve had it happen five times. I’m still hurting from that too, and I never had anyone to go to for help or support. I’ve made it this far without a safety net.

Now I’m reconnecting with the siblings I never got to grow up with as a kid, and it has opened up a tremendous window of hope. It feels SO good to begin this process – even this late into the game. It is what I have always wanted, and I feel it only getting better. Meeting a woman I could spend quality time with is still on the bucket list, but that’s extremely difficult in my current situation.

I thought for sure I would be financially secure by now and on my way but I’m a shopping cart and cardboard sign away from vagrancy, and I’m living week to week despite the fact I’m trying harder than I ever have. Life is constantly changing, and now that I finally figured out my craft it seems like nobody wants it anymore. I am a master blacksmith but nobody is buying horseshoes.

On top of that, I’m still dealing with depression and diabetes issues. Both of those require a lot of attention and effort, but how can I do that when I’ve got to focus on survival? There aren’t any trust funds with my name on it, and I’m screwed. No wonder old people are salty. Life is HARD.

Life seems to get harder as it goes. No wonder old people can be so crabby.

Life seems to get harder as it goes. No wonder old people can be so crabby.

She doesn't look crabby. I wonder if she wants to have lunch.

She doesn’t look crabby. I wonder if she wants to have lunch?

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Mentor Magic

July 29, 2014

Friday July 25th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

I love being a mentor. It’s got a lot of the same rewards of fatherhood without having to change any diapers. I have had some tremendous mentees along the way of all ages, and it’s funny when they have been physically older than me. It doesn’t matter, as they are still in the role of student.

I am a student myself of many things, but in comedy I am the mentor. It’s one of the few topics I’m able to speak on with relative authority, even though the entire time I am teaching I remain a dedicated learner. I just happen to be farther along than most, so I can reach back and nurture.

The challenge of figuring out how to bring out the best in each individual is something I never get tired of. Everybody is different, and mentoring is not something that is started and finished in one session. It’s long term, and requires dedication and input from both parties. I really enjoy it.

One of my current favorites is twelve year old Trevor Burke along with his father Joe. Joe took one of my classes at Zanies in Chicago many years ago, and now Trevor is doing comedy. He’s a super kid and I have grown to really like him – even though I would highly recommend that kids don’t do standup comedy for more than fun. There are several reasons for that, and all are legit.

First off, kids don’t have the life experience to be able to draw upon for material. They are in a tough spot, and I don’t think it’s fair to the average kid to put them in a position to be on stage in front of total strangers – especially adults. Too many things can go wrong, and it’s intimidating.

Second, bombing on stage can be an absolutely horrific experience. I wouldn’t want to throw a kid – especially one I like – into such a precarious position with any sort of regularity. If the kid is doing a talent show at school or something for other kids, fine. But as a career path? No way.

Of course there are exceptions to almost every rule, and Trevor is it. Joe has a background with entertainment, as his brother had a band. Joe is fully aware of the pitfalls, and is very good in the way he keeps Trevor grounded. He and his wife Pam are excellent parents, and it all just works.

People frequently ask me, “Is the kid funny?” He’s a KID. He’s still developing as a person, so it’s unfair to put adult expectations on him or any other child. He’s funny enough, and should he decide to stay with standup as he matures, I think he’s got an extremely bright future. What he is loaded with is likeability and experience. He’s been acting for years, and is at home on the stage.

He enjoys performing, and that’s a huge part of it. He’s a novelty right now, and everyone gets that. He’s getting a lot of attention because Joe knows how to play the entertainment game. He is Trevor’s manager, and it’s a chance for them to bond as father and son but still develop a career.

Tonight I rode to Milwaukee with them both and watched Trevor compete in a talent contest at a street fair. It wasn’t the greatest of circumstances, but he went up and did his set anyway. There was a girl about his age that was a singer, and she had a bunch of her family come out so she was the winner because it was based on audience response. Trevor wasn’t disappointed, and we went to dinner at The Safe House afterward. It was fun to hang out, and no matter what happens I will still be his mentor and friend. Comedy is a nasty racket. I want to see him enjoy his childhood.

Trevor Burke has done more in show business at age 12 than most people do in a lifetime. Plus, he's a really nice kid too. I'm a big fan. www.trevorburke.com

Trevor Burke has done more in show business at age 12 than most people do in a lifetime. Plus, he’s a really nice kid too. I’m a big fan. http://www.trevorburke.com

Brothers Again

July 9, 2014

Sunday July 6th, 2014 – Watertown, WI

2014 has been nothing short of a blockbuster personal year for me, and at the moment nothing else matters. It’s easy to take positive things for granted, and I think we all make that mistake on a regular basis. We focus on what we don’ t have and would like to rather than our greatest gifts.

Since my earliest childhood memories, all I wanted was to fit in with a family. Playing the role of the outsider grows old in a hurry, and I grew weary of it so long ago I can’t remember exactly when it was. All I know is what I wanted more than anything was to connect with my siblings.

I realize no family is perfect, but a lot of them I’ve seen are extremely close and there’s a sense of belonging and acceptance that I know I’ve missed for so long. It’s been unbelievably lonely to have gone through much of my life without that support structure, but I’m making up for it now.

Meeting up with my sister Tammy last month was a priceless gift. We got to say anything we’d ever maybe left unsaid, and there was no animosity or lingering soap opera story lines. We had a coming together for the first time as adults, and I know it’s going to be a permanent connection.

Today I drove to Watertown, WI to visit my brother Larry and his son Jake. Larry wanted to be at Tammy’s last month but he couldn’t make it. I think it worked out for the best because it was a chance for Tammy and me to clear any personal business we may have needed to. It was perfect.

Larry and I had our chance today, and it went exactly the same way. We hung out for the same five hour block of time Tammy and I did, but that was totally unintentional. I happened to notice the clock on my phone both times when I got in my car, and was amazed at how fast time flew.

While Tammy and I had our various minor issues over the years, I don’t ever remember Larry and me arguing, fighting, raising a voice or having a single cross word. Ever. He’s one of if not the most peaceful human souls I have ever known, and I appreciate him more now that I haven’t been in touch with him for so long. Getting to spend time with him today was a splendid treat.

I wasn’t going to jump on him for not staying in contact. That’s just the way he is. He’s got his own personal Mt. Everest of life problems to climb, and I knew it was nothing I did. I hoped we would be able to finally get back in contact, and now that we have I won’t ever let it lapse again.

Larry took the lion’s share of the abuse from our father. That poor kid took so many punches as a child – and for no reason other than our father was a sick mean spirited bully that needed to get help – none of us thought he’d ever make it to his 18th birthday. But he took it, and never bitched.

I don’t remember hearing Larry say even one negative or unkind word about the vicious son of a bitch, but I do recall him laughing pretty hard as kids when I came up with a nickname “Darth Father”. I think he may have felt ashamed for laughing, but he did anyway and I’m glad he did.

No child deserves to take as many cruel beatings as he did – especially when he did nothing to deserve them except being born at the wrong time to the wrong parents. I may have had issues of my own living with my grandparents, but it wasn’t that. My heart has always gone out to Larry.

We all felt horrible for him. Something of little to no real significance would infuriate the old man, and we all knew Larry would eventually have to take the beating. Some were much worse than others, but those bad ones still make me wince. I can still hear those screams, and I cringe.

Larry’s childhood was basically a forced labor camp. Our father was a notoriously cheap prick, and decided that wood heat was all that was needed. He forced Larry to cut the wood supply for the winter, and that’s basically all he did when he had any free time. What a waste of childhood.

Did Larry complain? He did what he was told, and all he wanted was to please that bag of shit. This went on for years, and no matter what problems I faced I always thought of Larry and knew that could have been me. I wouldn’t have handled it so peacefully, and I think the old man knew.

Larry eventually moved to Watertown, WI from Milwaukee, as that’s where quite a few of our mother’s family is from. Larry knows our mother way better than Tammy or I do, and he doesn’t have any ill feelings against her either. I’m telling you, he’s one of the calmest souls I ever met.

By all accounts, he probably should be in prison for a six state killing spree by now but he has worked at the same company for thirty five years and tried his best to carve out a life for himself. He’s a WONDERFUL father, and although he doesn’t have much whatever he does have goes to his son Jake and his daughter Gina. He tells them he loves them constantly – and really means it.

We went to have some pizza, and Jake was asking Larry about the material I do on my comedy CD about my brother beating me up all the time. Larry looked at him with a somber face and put his hand on Jake’s shoulder. “I sure did son, and BOY was it fun. Your uncle DESERVED it!”

Jake’s eyes got big, and Larry and I burst into laughter. I assured Jake it was only for comedic purposes, but even if he did beat me up I probably did deserve it. I didn’t go into detail about the beatings Larry took all those years, and it’s not my business. If Larry wants to share that, he will.

What I was able to share with Larry was some one on one time after we ate. Jake left us alone, as he knew we needed some time to reconnect. I told Larry I loved him and was proud of him for how he played the rotten hand of cards life dealt him. I told him he was a class act of the highest order, and I was proud to have him as my brother. The look on his face said it all. We both wept.

He shared some very deep thoughts, and said he still has nightmares about his childhood to this day. He told me he was filled with rage but channeled it by getting into martial arts. He’s nobody to mess with, and can pretty much handle himself with anyone walking the planet. He never uses it to show off, and never provokes anyone. He told me if he hadn’t gone into that he’d be dead.

I don’t think I could have absorbed Larry’s childhood, and I’m glad I didn’t have to. Mine was a difficult enough challenge, and I’m still mopping up the mess. Tammy has her own dung heap to navigate around, but at least now we can all help and encourage each other with the struggle.

The wonders these meetings are working inside my soul are miraculous. They are giving me an opportunity to get over my anger and issues and realize it wasn’t any of our faults. I need to meet next with our other brother Bruce, and we’ll get to it. For today, Larry and I are brothers again.

This picture was taken on the day I was brought to live with my grandparents. I was five months old. Look at my eyes. I knew.

This picture was taken on the day I was brought to live with my grandparents. I was five months old and separated from my siblings. Look at my eyes. I knew.

Trevor Burke

November 23, 2013

Thursday November 21st, 2013 – St. Charles, IL

I don’t have a lot of power in the show business arena – or anywhere else – but that which I do possess I always try to use for good. Tonight I was able to facilitate a good deed that will remain in several dozen people’s memories for decades, and that’s a win/win every time. I’m glad I did.

One of my former comedy students Joseph Burke has a twelve year old son named Trevor who has been doing standup comedy for a while now. I’ve seen kids try standup comedy before, and I always approach it with caution. It’s not really for kids as a rule, but there are always exceptions.

Comedy can be a brutal experience when it goes poorly, and there are countless things that can go wrong on any given night. Putting a kid in the line of fire can be extremely dangerous, and I’d personally recommend against it far more often than I’d encourage it. It has to be the correct fit.

The situation with Joe and Trevor is far different than most, and I was able to help arrange for Trevor to appear for a ten minute guest spot opening for me at Zanies Comedy Club at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL. The Burke family lives about six blocks from the resort, and they were thrilled that I could arrange the appearance. Joe got the word out with friends and family.

Appearing on a Zanies stage for the first time is a big deal for any Chicago comedian, but for a twelve year old kid it’s unheard of. Not only that, but to do it in front of family and friends in the backyard is something they’ll all be talking about decades from now. It was a wonderful night.

I was truly pleased to see how everything unfolded, and Trevor went up and got some very big laughs – not only with his friends and family but with the regular audience as well. He’s a funny kid, and has been working with his dad for a while now. This was not a one time and done fluke.

There are a lot of performers that couldn’t stand that fact that a cute kid was getting the laughs and attention from an audience, but I am secure enough in myself and my ability and I absolutely loved it all. This was a huge night for Trevor, but also for Joe and all the friends that showed up.

Joe asked me to sit down with Trevor a few months ago and give him some pointers. The main thing I told Trevor was that I was in his corner and would always be his friend first before having anything to do with comedy. I will support him in whatever he chooses to do, and if he wants my help or advice I’ll gladly give it. If not, that’s fine too. It’s exactly what I would tell my own son.

Another thing I told him was to just relax and enjoy everything that goes with being a kid. He’s into video games and all the other things a twelve year old of today would like, and that’s what a kid should do. Standup comedy will always be there, and there should be no pressure to fight and claw into a business that can be very unforgiving when one isn’t a cute kid. Look at child actors.

Whatever the case, I was extremely proud of him as he went up there and got to experience the intoxicating thrill of getting laughs on stage. Was his set perfect? Nobody’s is including my own, but I wasn’t there to critique. He did great. That’s all any of those there to see him will remember forever. Who knows how far he’ll go? That isn’t important tonight. Trevor lived what most never get to experience at any age. I’m happy for him. After this, it’s all gravy. http://www.trevorburke.com

Trevor Burke has done more at age 12 than most comedians do in a lifetime. I hope he lets me drive his limo someday. www.trevorburke.com

Trevor Burke has done more at age 12 than most comedians do in a lifetime. I hope he lets me drive his limo someday. http://www.trevorburke.com

Losing At Schmoozing

September 14, 2013

Thursday September 12th, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

People who don’t know me well are often surprised to find out how quiet and unassuming I am off stage. I have never been one of those painfully annoying comedians who are ‘on’ all the time, and whenever I run across someone that is I can’t wait to get lost in a hurry. That’s not my thing.

All entertainers are attention whores to a certain extent, but I choose to get my fix on stage and that’s enough. Once the show is over, I’m fine with blending in to the woodwork. I don’t need to have around the clock validation from strangers to let me know I’m ok. I’m very much to myself.

As with most quirks, I think it all stems from childhood. I have an older brother and sister and a younger half brother, but was raised by my grandparents without them so it’s like I was an only child. I did visit them occasionally as a kid, but not enough to be considered a full time family.

I got used to spending large amounts of time on my own, and I grew to like it. I was in control of what I wanted to watch on TV, and I liked to read as well. I had plenty to do to keep me busy, and plenty of friends in the neighborhood to play with when I wanted company. I was content.

As I got into comedy, that mindset did me well. Comedians often have long stretches of travel that are done completely alone, and it can be extremely intimidating at first. I remember the first time I went across the country by myself. I was about 19, and I took a Greyhound bus to Dallas.

That was a huge step at the time, as I quit my job as a cook at a steak restaurant in mid shift to chase my adventure. I’d never been out of Milwaukee on my own before that, and it opened up a door that has never closed. I couldn’t begin to count all of the trips I took completely by myself.

I’ve often joked that I could survive prison time, and I still think I could. I hope I never have to test that theory, but my enemies should probably think twice before they try anything stupid. It’s never smart to mess with anyone who isn’t afraid of consequences, but I don’t want to go there.

I want to be a comedian, and I’m already there. I’m not nearly as far as I think I should be, and that’s been my fault mainly because I am such a lone wolf. Schmoozing with others is part of the game, and I’ve been extremely poor at maintaining a facade that I enjoy it – which I never have.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy having fun with other comedians. I absolutely do, but what I’ve never enjoyed was having to hang out for hours watching others get drunk or high, as that’s a huge part of what a majority of people do to be social. I’ve never been a drinker or druggie, and don’t plan on starting any time soon. I prefer to do my show and go home, but that’s not good for business.

Tonight I picked up a last minute gig hosting the show at Zanies in Rosemont, IL. I was glad to have a chance to get paid, even though I just closed the show there last night. Ego doesn’t become an issue when bills are due, and I enjoy working all of the Zanies clubs in Chicago. I’m at home.

If I felt that at home everywhere else, I’d be a lot farther along on my career path. I really need to force myself to find a way to network better. It’s not my nature, but it’s also the only way I’m ever going to get a break. I can be a recluse after I hit a big payday. For now, I need to be seen.

Health Issues

August 16, 2013

Thursday August 15th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Although I barely remember it, when I was a wee lad I spent about ten days in the hospital with a pretty serious case of pneumonia. From what my grandparents told me in later years, they were not completely sure I was going to make it out. I must have been three or four years old at most.

   From what I heard through childhood, the doctors told me I’d be susceptible to pneumonia for the rest of my life. Oh, boy! There’s something to look forward to. I suppose it could have been a lot worse, as kids get all kinds of diseases. Some of them die before they grow up. Life isn’t fair.

   As I grew up, every few years or so like clockwork I’d get sidelined with a miserable infection that knocked me out of commission for several days. It always seemed to be in the summer when I was out of school, and I remember how cheated I felt. Why couldn’t I get it in the school year?

   It’s been a long time since I’ve had ‘the crud’ as my grandparents used to call it, but I’m afraid it’s back by unpopular demand. I started to feel all congested on Sunday out of the blue, and then on Monday a barking cough came along with it. I’m not a doctor, but it sure feels like it used to.

   I don’t think it helps that I’ve never had my tonsils out either. For whatever reason the doctors chose to leave them in, and it’s been another source of random infections. Every once in a while they swell up to the size of raviolis and I fight a brutal sore throat for a few days. Then it’s done.

   My entire medical history has been rather freakish at best. I didn’t have the chicken pox until I was 19, and I don’t know of anyone else who had them that late. Supposedly it can cause one to be sterile, so maybe it was Mother Nature’s way of preventing me from spreading my freak gene.

   Another thing I found odd as a kid was that I contracted pink eye – TWICE. Who gets it once? None of my friends ever got it, and I don’t know how I did. The doctor said I probably got it at a public pool where I was taking swimming lessons, but who knows? I just remember it was icky.

   Other than those few glitches though, I’ve been remarkably healthy. I’m not one of those types that catch a cold every year, and I’ve never ever had a flu shot. It seems like those that get a shot are always the first ones to get sick, and I’ve never trusted the procedure. I’ve taken my chances, and so far I haven’t caught the bug. If the Black Plague comes back, I’ll think about a shot then.

   If it’s in the cards for someone to get a disease, they’re going to get it. Genetics have a lot to do with everything about our lives. My grandmother was a compulsive neat freak to the point of her constantly scrubbing her telephone receiver, doorknobs and toilet seat. She’d bring a Tupperware container filled with soap and water in the car when she went somewhere in case she needed it to sanitize something. Wouldn’t you know it that she of all people happened to contract ringworm.

   I found that to be hilarious as a kid. Here’s the one person that could give Felix Unger a run for his money on cleanliness, and she gets ringworm. Gramps found it funny too, and it was the start of one of their biggest arguments I had ever seen. Grandma had ZERO sense of humor about it.

   Another weird case was Andy Kaufman. Somehow he managed to contract lung cancer but had never smoked a cigarette in his life. How does this happen? It’s some kind of genetic freak show, and none of us can control it. The instant that one single sperm hits the egg, our destinies are set. I shouldn’t complain that I get a coughing spell every few years. At least it’s not pink eye again.

Princess Stephanie

August 14, 2013

Tuesday August 13th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I am still working every day to pare down my piles of clutter. I took two boxes of accumulated trinkets and baubles to a friend of a friend that will hopefully be able sell it all on Ebay, and then brought a couple of bags of clothing to a Salvation Army store. Little by little, it’s getting done.

   I witnessed something at the Salvation Army store that disturbed me greatly. There was a cute little curly red haired girl of maybe six or seven who was with a war pig that I assumed had to be her grandmother. Judging by her sour demeanor, it would be a major stretch to imagine any man sleeping with her recently enough to be the mother of this angelic little sweetheart. What a bitch.

   She was constantly scolding the kid as they walked through the store, and heaven forbid if she wanted to stop to look at something or play with a toy. I really felt for her, and could clearly see the look of hurt in her eye get worse every time the older woman would start getting on her case.

   She was a little kid. What kind of harm could she do in a thrift store full of donated junk people didn’t even want anymore? So what if she would have dropped a glass or something. How much would it have cost to replace it, a quarter? The old lady made it seem like it was a museum of art.

   Unfortunately, this was all too familiar of a scenario. My German grandmother had a similarly icy cold domineering persona, and I remember walking through stores with her catching the very same hell when I was that age. I couldn’t touch or look at anything or have any fun whatsoever.

   My grandmother was a dented can herself, but it wasn’t an excuse in my opinion to turn around and be so cold hearted to a kid. What’s the reason? I’ve read where people do that because it’s all they know, but one would think it would be the exact opposite – at least I would. But it isn’t so.

   I remember having my infamous one on one with my father when I was 31, and he told me that he’d had a face to face with my grandfather when he was the same age and told him he was upset about the way he was treated. Then he said something that chilled me to the bone. “And I turned right around and did it to my own kids. Isn’t that odd?” Odd? Uh-uh. Uncalled for? Absolutely.

   It has always scared me to death to have children because I was afraid I’d carry on that hideous tradition that has been so prevalent in my family. I’m sure it’s in every family to a certain degree, but mine takes it to a high level. I can’t think of any relatives who got to enjoy a childhood filled with Hershey bars and Archie comics – which is exactly what childhood is supposed to be about.

   After several minutes of watching this poor kid get yelled at, I felt like I had to somehow break the tension. I wanted to punch the old bag in the face, but I knew that was the wrong option so all I could think of was to drop a glass on the floor when they weren’t looking and break it. That got both of their attention along with a store clerk, and I immediately put all of the blame on myself.

   “OOPS!” I said aloud as the clerk came quickly over with broom and dust pan. The girl looked up with her pretty blue eyes as if she’d expected the old lady to spank us both but I said “I know a good kid like YOU would never break something like that, would you? That was MY fault.”

   I know how that works from when I was a kid. Someone else screwing up was a relief in that it took the heat off of me for at least a little while. I wish I wasn’t so familiar with this concept but I totally am. Life was full of constant tension as we waited for what would set the old man off.

   I figured that I would take some of the heat off the kid at least for a few minutes. The glass that I chose was only fifty cents and already had a crack in it, so I figured I’d make the investment for the kid’s sake. I knew it was none of my business – but it totally was. I could feel that kid’s pain.

   “She’s a BRAT” snapped the old lady when I said the kid was good. I wanted to kick her in her two ax handle wide ass right there. “NOOO, I think she’s a sweetie pie. I know a good kid when I see one and she is IT! Look at all those BEAUTIFUL red curls and those PRETTY blue eyes!”

   I could see the kid’s face start to light up as I said it, so I kept going. “Are you a PRINCESS?” I asked. She laughed out loud and said no, but I knew I had her going. “Well, I think you’re the prettiest girl in this whole place, and from now on you’re my new Princess. What’s your name?”

   “Stephanie,” she said barely audibly and with a slight lisp ala Cindy Brady. What a sweetheart.

   “Well, from now on you are PRINCESS Stephanie!” I said as I bowed low in front of her. “All hail the BEAUTIFUL Princess!” and I grabbed her hand and kissed it. The store clerk spoke very little English, but she was smiling as she finished cleaning up the glass. The old lady didn’t smile once, and grabbed Stephanie by the arm and they went on their way. I wanted to cry right there.

   I took a lap in the store to gawk at all the junk, even though I’m trying hard to divest myself of as much useless garbage as I can. I guess it’s force of habit, as I’ve gone through thrift stores for as long as I can remember. It’s cheap entertainment, and I had a few minutes to kill before lunch.

   As I walked out of the store I saw the two of them in line to check out. Stephanie smiled at me as I passed by, and I bowed low in front of her once again and waved good bye. She waved back but I could see that it was irritating the old lady so I didn’t say anything else. I did what I could.

   This whole scene really bothered me all day. I’m sure the old lady had a closet full of problems of her own, but she had no idea that she was in turn making Stephanie’s life miserable and giving her unpleasant memories that would last a lifetime. That age is so impressionable for every kid.

   Who can’t look back and remember something that happened when we were six or seven like it was yesterday? Good or bad, memories at that age are very vivid, as often it’s the first time we’re experiencing something. How good did the candy taste then? How fun was it to go down a slide?

   On the other hand, how scary was it to awaken from a nightmare or get chased by a mean dog? That age is supposed to be filled with golden memories on which we build our lives, not hellish torture we spend the rest of our lives trying to forget. Nobody’s childhood is perfect, but some of us have it happen like it’s supposed to. Dented cans spend our adulthoods overcoming our pasts.

   My heart goes out to all the Stephanies of the world – and unfortunately there are MILLIONS. Most of us start out as that cute kid, and then life starts happening and we go our separate ways. Everyone reacts differently to both heredity and environment, and thus we’re all individuals.

   I don’t claim to know everything, and never have. I know that I struggle on a daily basis to get over many unpleasant aspects of my childhood as do all dented cans. Some choose to drown the pain in drugs or alcohol. Others become entertainers to become someone else. Either way, we’ve all got a Princess Stephanie somewhere inside but if nobody tells us we’re good we’ll never have the fun in life we’re entitled to. I do hope I made that kid feel good today. She’ll need it later.

No Free Rides

December 5, 2012

Monday December 3rd, 2012 – Chicago, IL

   I’m starting to get a few comedy shows and classes lined up for the next couple of months, and that’s encouraging. I’ve never enjoyed that whole process, but at least I’m making a better effort to get it done even if it is out of necessity. I have to find a way to pay off my taxes and move on.

I’ve got shows lined up at least every weekend for the next six weeks, and that gives me a little breathing room to work even harder at filling the rest of 2013. I’m at my absolute peak right now as far as levels of performance and teaching go, but there’s no guarantee how long that will last.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to stay hungry forever. Eventually, one either starves to death or is full and no longer needs to hunt. I find myself in an odd position that’s right in between. I have experienced the fringes of success, but haven’t had enough to fill me up for a lifetime quite yet.

My goals when I started in comedy were to become a headliner in major comedy clubs all over North America and appear on national television as well. I’ve done that, but it hasn’t been nearly what I had imagined. I assumed that when it happened my life would just work out all by itself.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and now that I’m here I realize that every stage of life comes with its own individual set of difficult challenges and there are no free rides whatsoever at any time. I used to look at the headliners when I started in comedy and thought they lived golden lives completely free of turmoil. I would hear them complain, and could not comprehend why.

Now I’m in their position, and I totally see why they felt like they did. There are hidden things nobody sees until they venture down that path, but by then it’s too late. It’s like a kid wanting to be an adult more than anything, and not being able to understand why adults aren’t totally happy.

A kid sees the benefits they crave at the time but can’t have like being able to stay up as late as they want or the freedom to eat as much McDonald’s or candy as they can hold, but other things like the high pressure responsibility of making a living or dealing with in laws goes unnoticed.

Kids can’t fathom in the least why adults seem to be so boring most of the time and constantly complaining, but eventually they find out soon enough and then it’s too late. There’s no return to childhood, and the next generation of kids are coming up the ladder and the cycle begins again.

I noticed that at Zanies in Chicago tonight as I hosted the Rising Star Showcase as I’ve done on and off for several years now. I hadn’t done it in a while, so it was a nice change of pace. I enjoy seeing the new comics coming up the ladder, and I see that same hunger in their eyes that I had.

Those kids look at me exactly the way I used to look at the headliners as I was clawing my way up the ranks, but they fail to see the advantages of youth just like I did when I had it. I try to give sincere words of encouragement to as many of them as I can, as I know how much that meant to me when I was in their position. I still remember kind words I heard 20 years ago, and those who said them rank high in my book even now. But where did that time go? It seems like last week.

There’s Life On Uranus!

February 4, 2010

Wednesday February 3rd, 2010 – Chicago, IL/Milwaukee, WI

I’m in a splendiferistic place in my head right now and I never want to leave. Things are falling into place in many areas and I can feel that I’m in the prime of my life. That might end before the weekend, or last for thirty years. Either way, I‘m feeling at peace TODAY.

Maybe this is the manic part of manic depression, but I don’t feel that way. I’ve had ups and downs my whole life, but this is different. There is just an inner energy that is pulsing through me that is completely engulfing me in a feeling of confidence, direction and dare I say it – love. That’s a powerful word, but that’s how I’m describing what I’m feeling.

What really put me in a good frame of mind this morning was getting an email from my web guy for the Uranus website Mark Huelskamp. We’ve been going back and forth for a couple of weeks now, and he’s taken control of this project from my friend Shelley who’d been helping me before. Shelley has been great, but I needed to take it to a higher level.

Shelley has a job and family and was doing it to help me as a friend. I totally appreciate that, but if I’m going to make a dream happen, I have to dive in all the way. Mark does it for a living, and he’s the brother in law of my comedian friend Jim McHugh. I don’t trust a lot of people, but Jim I do and he’s the one who set us up. Today I was thrilled he did.

Mark sent me about 2000 different fonts to look at and a few mockup website templates and we went back and forth on it for a while. Today he sent me the final product and it hit me right between the eyes. He nailed it and I just about started crying. It was exactly what I wanted. It has great eye appeal and is what I had pictured all along. It lit up my being.

This whole project has taken a lot longer than I expected and cost a lot more money that I don’t have to pay for things I didn’t want to buy. I first thought of it all the way back on September 1st, 2007 at the Baymont Inn in Salt Lake City. It’s taken over two years to get it this far, and I still haven’t sold the first product yet. That being said, I know it’ll work.

I’ve experimented a little with the concept and have gotten an overwhelmingly positive response from everyone who has seen it. Uranus is funny. Period. It always has been, and I don’t care if they try to change the pronunciation for the kids today. It’s a giant butt joke and there are endless ways to get to it. Now it’s my job to find as many of them as I can.

I didn’t invent Uranus jokes, but I’m going to claim them for my own. David Letterman didn’t invent the top ten list, but he made that his own. He claimed it, and it became what most people know his show for. Good for him, a trademark is not easy to acquire. It’s not something someone sits down with a pen and pad and makes up. It just kind of happens.

That’s how this idea came about. I was in the shower and it hit me out of nowhere but I was smart enough to listen and get out and start writing it down. Ideas kept flowing and I kept writing, and I still have all those notes today. I just haven’t done as much with them as I should have, and I wish I knew why. I’ve been very inconsistent, but not anymore.

Looking at that website template sent electricity through my veins. I actually got to SEE it with my own eyes, and I knew right there I was going to make it happen. I have no idea how I’m going to do it, and/or why I’m so confident, but I just know. It’s a great feeling.

I’ve got a ton of work ahead of me and I’m sure there will be crisis situations and every problem I never expected, but I’m not worried about any of that. I’m GOING to do this, if for no other reason than because it’s fun. I thought of it, I like it, and I’m doing it. Period.

That’s totally what life is all about, or at least I think it should be. Whether I ever make a nickel or not, it’s already been a success. It’s made a ton of people laugh who’ve heard of it and nothing else. I had a Uranus bumper sticker on the car I wrecked and all kinds of people beeped and gave me a thumbs up and even took pictures of it with a cell phone.

What I have to do is create an entire world around Uranus. See? That’s funny just to say out loud. Try it. And guess what? I’m the KING! How cool is that? What does a King Of Uranus exactly do? I haven’t figured that out yet. Why is there a King? Beats me. What’s so great is that nobody else knows either. I get to make it up and decide on all of it. Cool!

I guess I’m getting the chance to be a kid I never got when I was that age. There was all that ugliness and dysfunction going on that I had to grow up before I got a chance to blow all this juvenile poo out of my system when I was nine like I should have. It’s still in there all these years later, and it’s taken root in my soul. I’m having fun just thinking about this.

I had lunch in Chicago today with Marc Schultz. He saw how excited I was, and he said he’s never seen me so giddy about anything, even being on The Late Late Show last year. I have to admit, he’s right. This is THE most fun I’ve ever had in my life, and it isn’t even an actual entity yet. It’s getting there, and today was a big step. But, it’s still not a reality.

I drove up to Milwaukee to have dinner with my cousin Brett. We don’t get time to just sit and talk so tonight was a treat. He saw how much I was glowing and I tried to figure it all out with him. He’s known me his whole life, and has seen the ups and downs. He’s an amazingly creative guy and we’re on a similar wavelength. He sees what I’m trying to do.

The one thing we agreed on was that anger toward the past and especially our fathers is not the answer, and never was. Maybe that’s what’s gone from my life and I’m finally in a position to enjoy the good things of life rather than be consumed by bitterness as I was for a lot of years. I missed out on a lot of good things, but I don’t feel I’m missing them now.

We had a Chinese buffet and it was delicious. Then we went to Leon’s and had sundaes and they were even better. I am realizing that the journey IS the happiness, and chasing is where the fun and adventure in any project is. I’ve now got the best chase I’ve ever had!

I’ve still got bills and rent and troubles and clutter and everything I had before I had my revelation today or whatever it was. The thing is, I don’t care about any of those things at all. I care about bringing this concept to life. My creative energy has an outlet in Uranus!